Clemens’ postseason hopes still alive
Braden Fox scattered five hits and New Braunfels took advantage of six Clemens Buffaloes errors for a 6-2 win Friday, keeping alive their chances for a district championship.
The Unicorns, 8-4 in District 27-6A play, face Smithson Valley this week in a home-and-home series to decide 27-6A seeding. The Unicorns, winners of eight of their last nine games, can take the crown if they sweep the SmithsonValley Rangers, who entered Tuesday’s homestand against New Braunfels with a 10-2 district mark.
But the bottom could fall out just as easily for New Braunfels. If they get swept and fall to 8-6, they could miss the playoffs entirely, as Judson, East Central and Clemens all have two games against inferior opponents who have already been eliminated from the playoffs.
It’s been that kind of season in 27-6A, where the only team safely in the playoffs is Smithson Valley, while four others battle for the remaining three playoff spots.
Clemens is still alive despite the home loss to the Unicorns. Five of New Braunfels’ six runs were unearned.
At 7-5 in district, Clemens is tied for third with Judson and East Central. The Buffaloes hosted Steele (2-10) Tuesday, and conclude the regular season Friday at Steele. With three teams tied for third and New Braunfels facing Smithson Valley twice, nothing was guaranteed prior to the April 24 contests.
New Braunfels coach Bobby Alford said his team benefitted from a solid outing on the mound by Fox, one of two or three Unicorn pitchers that have recovered from a shaky non-district start.
“(Clemens) just saw a carbon copy tonight of what they saw on Tuesday (a New Braunfels 10-1 win) — a guy that spots fastballs who’s not overpowering, but just competes his tail off,” Alford said. “He hits both sides of the plate, spins breaking balls, and … we’re really happy with Braden right now.”
New Braunfels started the season 2-10 overall, including a seven-game losing streak, and were just 3-15 and 0-2 in district before they caught fire.
“You just have to take advantage of an opportunity. We were a little snake-bit about a month-and-a-half ago, and it seemed like it was going the other way for a while,” the coach said. “To our kids’ credit, they just kept working and they’ve never wavered. They just kept playing the game and practiced hard and got after it.”
On Friday, they used three singles to plate two runs in the second inning, which saw one hit batsman, and a batter gain second on an overthrow at first base. He later scored the game’s first run.
The Unicorns extended the lead to 3-0 in the fourth when right-fielder Adam Wuensch reached base on an infield error, took second on another Clemens error, and scored on third baseman Will Coronado’s single into shallow center.
Clemens’ bats woke up in the home half of the fourth. First baseman Stephen Lynch walked and scored from first on a deep double by third baseman Peyton McDowell. McDowell later scored on a sacrifice fly to right by DH Jonathan Voos, trimming the NB lead to 3-2.
But New Braunfels came right back. Two walks and a hit batsmen loaded the bases with no outs before Clemens shortstop Giovanni Amescua’s poor throw to first allowed two runners to score. They added the game’s final run in the sixth when DH Will Tillman drew a two-out walk, advanced to third on a horrendous pickoff attempt, and then scored on a wild pitch.
“This puts us in a good position to make the playoffs, where anything can happen,” Alford said. “It’s a cliché, I know, but when you get there, you’re 0-0 and you have an opportunity to go out there and play for a while.”